Patients who died following St Leonards hospice fire were unlawfully killed, inquest finds

Three patients who died following a fire at a hospice in Sussex were unlawfully killed, a coroner has ruled.

The July 2015 blaze at St Michael's Hospice in St Leonards was thought to be arson, but the suspect died before the case came to court.

Senior Coroner Alan Craze described the deaths as "absolute tragedies".

The fire broke out in the early hours of 11th July in 2015, with twenty three patients at the hospice having to be rescued.

But retired teacher Jill Moon, along with 81-year-old David Denness and 78-year-old Pearl Spencer all died shortly afterwards, with the inquest examining in detail whether the fire had hastened their deaths.

The fire started in the men's ward at the hospice and involved an oxygen cylinder.

Police charged another patient at the hospice, 67-year-old Rodney Smith, in connection with the incident, but he died before the case came to court.

The families of the victims welcomed today's verdicts, praising the staff at the hospice and the emergency services for their work in trying to save their loved ones.

Pearl Spencer's family said the coroners decisions has given them some closure.

David Denness' family said the inexplicable actions of Rodney Smith were made worse by inadequate fire safety precautions at the hospice.

St Michael's was fined a quarter of a million pounds for what a judge called "woefully inadequate" safety measures.

The hospice has apologised for the pain caused by the incident and says that improvements have been made following a recent fire inspection.